On a business trip several years ago, I checked into my hotel only to realize I had left my entire bag of toiletries at home. After frantically searching the area for a late-night drugstore, I eventually paid a pretty penny at a bodega for a handful of overpriced, off-brand bottles. When I returned to the hotel lobby, footsore and $60 poorer, I mentioned to the front-desk agent my madcap dash around the city. She looked at me sideways, and then handed me an entire kit of toiletries … for free.
Lesson learned: Before buying something you've forgotten to pack, always check with the hotel. To give you a sense of what kinds of things might be available, here are some items many hotels will provide on the house.
A compact hair dryer is usually available in domestic hotel rooms. But what about other hair tools, such as straighteners and curling irons? When it comes to free amenities, Kimpton is king: As part of their "Forgot It? We've Got It!" amenities program, Kimpton properties will lend guests a straightening iron or curling iron for free. Similarly, the Georgian Court Hotel in Vancouver offers a women-only Orchid Floor, where flat and curling irons come standard. And finally, Hyatt's newly launched "Hyatt Has It" program offers curling and flat irons at some participating locations.
They get lost in the wash, discarded in gym bags, and holey after just a few wears; it's no wonder travelers often forget to pack them. If you do, not to worry: Some hotels provide socks for the absent-minded (and cold-footed). Kimpton, for instance, provides zebra-printed lounge socks at its properties. (They may be a little funky to pair with your business suit, but they'll do in a pinch.) And as always, before you run out to the store, check with front-desk staff to see if they can provide you with a freebie set.
Teeny-tiny bottles of shampoo and conditioner are de rigueur, but often toothpaste is not included as part of your hotel's bathroom-amenities package. (This highly entertaining bit of investigative journalism from Slate explains why.) That doesn't mean you should let your dental hygiene lapse, though. A handful of hotels—including, again, Kimpton—will provide toothpaste, a toothbrush, and often mouthwash for inquiring guests. The Hyatt chain includes Aquafresh toothpaste in all guest rooms, and their pilot "Hyatt Has It" program offers complimentary mouthwash as well.
A sewing kit is essential for repairing wardrobe emergencies, from missing buttons to fallen hems, on the fly. However, needles and thread probably won't top your "must pack" list anytime soon. In case you've forgotten to stow a travel-sized sewing kit in your bag, don't fret: Many major hotels stock them in the bathroom or nightstand. And if you can't find a kit, call up management or the housekeeping department.
Don't pack up the entire Pack 'n Play on your next vacation. Many hotel chains offer free kids' amenities, from crayons and discovery maps to bathtub toys and personalized stationery for doodling. (Some properties even offer mini bathrobes for your little ones.) To assuage your pint-sized traveler's ennui, alert the hotel that a child will be in attendance, so a welcome basket or other nifty amenities will be in your room upon arrival.
A long, leisurely vacation is not the time to forego your yoga practice. Get your fitness on in-room with complimentary yoga gear at a number of hotels. Kimpton, of course, provides a yoga mat and on-demand fitness programming in every guest room. Affinia hotels in New York City and Washington, D.C., similarly provide yoga mats, blocks, and DVDs, as does InterContinental Hotels Group's holistically focused EVEN brand. Finally, Hyatt hotels also include yoga mats, available for purchase or on loan.
Forgot to pack your shiny new iPhone 5S power cord? Other travelers' forgetfulness may help you get out of this bind, as mobile-phone chargers are the most left-behind item in hotel rooms. With so many forgotten chargers, hotels have plenty on hand to lend out. So next time your battery is draining and you're powerless to stop it, pop down to the front desk and see if they've got an extra. More likely than not, the front-desk agent will produce a box with a veritable rainbow of phone chargers.
When traveling internationally, your electronic devices will likely need an adapter (which changes the shape of the plug) and/or a converter (which allows your devices to operate with different voltages). Not things you use every day, adapters and converters are often forgotten when packing for overseas trips. Luckily, hotels sometimes keep a box filled with spare left-behind adapters. And hostels, which see large amounts of international student travelers, often do as well. Inquire at the front desk before purchasing a new set, especially since they can get pricey.
I once fielded a panicked phone call from a family member, wondering how on earth she was going to fit six beach towels in her small carry-on bag. Fear not, panicking family members of the world. Properties often include free beach-towel rentals in your room's rack rate. Call ahead to be sure, but many beachside resorts, especially all-inclusives, offer this amenity. Some hotels even include free beach-chair rentals and/or complimentary snorkel gear, so you don't have to tow along your own flippers and masks. When booking your stay, it's key to note what is included in the rack or all-inclusive rate.
You may not need to purchase every single map, travel book, and city guide that your local bookstore has to offer. Hotels often stock these guides in the lobby or, better yet, in each guest room. Some properties, such as Holiday Inn, provide a binder of local dining and attractions recommendations on each room's work desk.